BY FRANCIS MUKUZUNGA
That music superstar, Oliver Mtukudzi turns 60 this weekend is not a secret anymore. Also, that there is a big birthday bash for him at the Glamis Arena the whole night tomorrow, featuring an impressive line-up of local and international musicians is not news anymore.
What may be news to many are his thespian and big screen acting capabilities. Before the big hit locally made movie Neria in 1991, in which he starred alongside Jessesi Mungoshi, not many people had any slightest idea that Oliver Mtukudzi’s first love was actually acting.
Having not been trained as a professional actor, Tuku acquired theatrical schools back in the 1960s while growing up in Highfield township. It was natural in those days that most youths growing up in townships would join clubs at recreational facilities offered by the city authorities.
Cyril Jennings Hall in Highfield was such a place. While other children horned their soccer skills and other sport, the young Tuku found music and acting as part of his extra mural activities after school. At Cyril Jennings, free music and acting lessons were conducted by experienced mentors such as the late comedian Safirio Madzikatire, popularly known as Mukadota.
The acting skills later blossomed in the 1990s and after the new millenium. With a passion for the silver screen Oliver has made short films including Ndichirimudiki (2008) which he directed and was shown at the Zimbabwe International Film Festival the same year.
He has participated in numerous documentaries on Zimbabwean music including Was My Child – a musical production – but his success in film came in 1990 when he played the lead character in Jit, Zimbabwe’s first feature film.
In 1991 Oliver played another lead role in another feature film Neria, one of the country’s best feature films to date. The movie looks at the abuse of widowed women by relatives of the deceased – something that had, or still is, a major cause for concern in Zimbabwe. He also composed the movie soundtrack.
Other movies associated with him include Jit (1990), Shanda (2002), Chipo Changu (2005), Zvemudundundu (2006) Ndichiri Mudiki (2007) and Sarawoga (2009).
Always on the lookout for societal needs and problems therein, Tuku also found himself in many social responsibility activities, particularly on issues that had to do with HIV and Aids. On many occasions Tuku would take up a supporting actor role in bringing awareness to the problems through his music or stage acts.
In 2010 he staged Nzou NeMhuru which featured a cast of 25 artistes including his late son, Sam.
In June this year, Tuku was part of an all-star cast musical Masanga Bodo at 7 Arts Theatre in Harare. The musical that featured stroytelling, music, dance and drama was written and directed by Mtukudzi. The strong cast of 25 artists featured among them, Tuku’s daughter, Selmor, wife Daisy, Bulawayo theatre group Iyasa, gospel ensemble Vabati VaJehova, rapper Ex-Q and many others.
The Zimbabwe government has honoured him with the Music Ambassador title whilst the University of Zimbabwe and the Women’s University in Africa conferred him with honorary degrees in the Arts.
Tuku has also nurtured a lot of young talent in Zimbabwe, some of whom he often performs with as envisioned in his dream of the Pakare Paye Arts Centre in Norton where an abundant of talent ranging from music, dance, drama and visual arts are trained.
Young artists from all over Zimbabwe are invited to come and train at this institution that has become part of the Tuku label.
As accolades for his birthday continue to pour in, Tuku has revealed that he will be launching at new album at tomorrow’s birthday bash. The album will be entitled Sarawoga, his 61st album to date. In his birthday message, posted on the Tuku Music website, Tuku notes that:
“It was not planned that the album Sarawoga coincides with my 60th birthday. I have three other albums ready and I still want to do another song. As long as mankind exists there is always something to talk about, and as long as there is something to talk about there is something to sing about and so I shall sing always.
“When my mother said my birth cry was my best ever composition it gives me the feeling that God created me to be an artiste and given the talent to make music. My 60th birthday gives me the idea that one must never take for granted each and every day of our lives because each morning is a gift of life that is not guaranteed,” says Tuku.
“At 60 I still can do the things that I did when I was 40. Age is defined in time and wisdom – wisdom which must be shared among the people and time which we do not have. My fans keep me fit, focused and inspired because I have a purpose for them,” the musician says further. Financial Gazette
Happy birthday Tuku and many happy returns!
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